Links this week: top Google search terms in Africa, Zaï farming practices in Chad, and more

Here are the links to things we shared in this week’s episode of Ufahamu Africa.

First, from the newswrap:

Google released its top search items in 2018, and you can see the results by country. There were some common themes across the continent: World Cup love and devotion; celebrity tracking; information on jobs and employment opportunities (“Jobs near me” was a top search item in South Africa); and seeking news on subnational elections and opposition politicians. In Nigeria, 2018’s most-searched news event was the Osun elections, which gripped national attention in September due to alleged incidents of voter intimidation and interference. In Kenya, self-styled National Resistance Movement general Miguna Miguna was a top search result, along with Kenya Certificate of Primary Education results. The trending events featured the swearing-in of Raila Odinga as the People’s President in January 2018.

Perhaps most interesting from a technology, social media, and politics perspective were the search results in Uganda (which are not available on the Google site linked above, but are included in this piece from The Monitor, republished by AllAfrica.com). Second only to the World Cup in Uganda’s search terms in 2018 was VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network. VPNs allow users to secretly access a network and share data remotely through public networks by masking the user’s exact location. The search term hit its peak on July 1, 2018, the day Uganda’s Social Media tax came into force, which required Ugandans to pay Shs200 a day to use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp, among others. 

Best headline on the internet we read was from The Standard about the Singapore marathon: “Clean 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17 sweep for Kenya at Singapore Marathon.” Yes, that means the first 17 finishers in the marathon were all from Kenya.

Kojo Asante (@KojoPumpuni), our first ever guest on Ufahamu Africa, wrote a long public post on Facebook about Ghanaians taking to the streets earlier this month to protest corruption in Ghana. His post may put Episode 47 (about recent student protests at KNUST) in a broader context of citizen political engagement in Ghana. His post incorporated a lot of data collected by Afrobarometer (@afrobarometer) and the Center for Democratic Development, or CDD-Ghana (@CDDGhana).

On the heels of the dire UN Climate Report, how are African countries navigating the very diverse set of challenges they face? Journalist Charu Kasturi (@CharuKasturi) has a great piece on one of the most vulnerable countries globally: Chad. Chad’s vulnerability is due to a combination of extreme poverty, a large refugee population from Darfur and Central African Republic, deforestation of natural savannah with increasing farmland and production pressures, and decreasing rainfall in the agriculture-dependent society. Kasturi’s piece highlights responses to climate change pressures in Chad, including: 

  • A project aimed at teaming up with other West African nations to collectively revive Lake Chad. 
  • A project aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on traditional water sources.  
  • Farmers are also adopting agroforestry — growing crops and trees on the same land. The practice has also been shown to increase harvests.
  • But perhaps most interesting is the work of policymakers and agriculturalists returning to traditional practices like Zaï to maximize water use efficiency. Learn what Zaï is from Kasturi’s piece: “Farmers dig pits to catch water and then add compost and manure to attract termites that then burrow even deeper, allowing nutrients and water to seep into the subsoil. Studies show Zaï significantly enhances crop yields with less rain than other irrigation methods.” 

As a bonus link, we did some searching on Google Scholar, only to learn that, indeed, there are studies from West Africa that show Zaï enhances crop yields — but even more exciting is this study that took the lessons from Zaï in West Africa and implemented them (and found positive results) in the Ethiopian highlands!

For folks following the news from the US about President Trump’s new Africa policy, and how the framing is really one of competing with Russia and China, we encourage reading Judd Devermont’s (@JDevermonttestimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, who recently held a hearing on China in Africa.

We also recommend a piece from a couple of months ago by development economist Anzetse Were (@Anzetse). In it, she focuses on the debt trap framing, which we see in some of the US rhetoric this week. She wrote, “The debt trap narrative undermines the decision-making power and agency of African governments. Even worse, the debt trap narrative infantalises African governments, painting them as little more than overgrown children who have to be constantly supervised by other powers if there is any hope of them getting anything right.” For a bonus link related to the “debt trap,” see this piece in World Politics Review by Jonathan Rosen (@jw_rosen) on the politics of Chinese debt in Zambia.

Talking about BONUS LINKS for this week, here are some things we saw on the internet that we didn’t get to share in our latest episode’s news wrap:

And one last awesome link via a tweet from future Ufahamu Africa guest, Beth Whitaker:

In our latest episode, we also mentioned Mike Woldemariam’s book, Insurgent Fragmentation in the Horn of Africa: Rebellion and Its Discontents, as well as an academic article he wrote on the Ethiopia-Eritrea rivalry. Mike recommended Lisa Mueller’s book, Political Protest in Contemporary Africa.

Tune in this Saturday for our next episode, featuring DRC expert and host of @2minuteafricanpolitics Laura Seay (@texasinafrica). Until then, listen to her previous chat on Ufahamu Africa, in Episode 9.


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